Niles, Steve (30 Days of Night)
Growing up in a household where movies, music and comics were touted as “wastes of time and money” caused me to carry these ideals into my adulthood. As I matured and began to develop my own sense of the world, it was difficult for me to lose that mindset. For years I denied myself the pleasure of going to the theater or picking up a comic to even casually flip through the pages. I was all too often reminded of my childhood and instances where I would run excitedly to my mother with the newest Superman or Batman comic in hand, only to be shot down time and time again. “Go put that back!” my mother would say. “That stuff is a waste of good time and money!”
Eventually I began to peel away the stigma my parents had placed on movies and found that I could actually go see an occasional film without my children starving to death. Let’s put it this way: I didn’t go to the theater between the time The Rock was released until I was taken on a date to the X-Files movie! But the comics! The comics were surely still a waste of time (of which I had very little) and definitely money (of which I had even less).
Years later my husband brought home a stack of comics. I secretly damned him for wasting our money (thanks, Mom), and then while he was at work, I committed a sin against my upbringing. I read one! Then the strangest thing happened. Guess what?! I absolutely LOVED it! I absorbed every page with anticipation of the next. Before I realized what had happened, I had read the whole stack!
Obsession took hold, and I found myself scouring the internet for more information on this comic writing genius who had caused me to stray so far from the beliefs that had been instilled in me for so long. It got so bad that I went to my local comic book store and PAID for a membership so that I could BUY more of this man’s work! I had a file that automatically filled with more bloody goodness on a regular basis. I was hooked!
You may be wondering who in the hell could cause such a reaction from a comic book prude such as myself. Well, it was none other than Steve Niles, creator of titles such as 30 Days of Night, Wake the Dead, Criminal Macabre, and more recently The Creeper just to name a few. In his career he has worked with the likes of Rob Zombie, Ben Tempelsmith, Thomas Jane (The Punisher), and Bernie Wrightson.
Steve Niles brought me out of the mental dark ages and transported me into Dark Days instead! To my surprise and overwhelming glee I was recently given the opportunity to interview the man himself! And this is how it went…
Melissa Bostaph: Hello Steve, I can’t thank you enough for giving me some of your valuable time. I’d like to start in with some background information so our readers can get to know you a bit. When did your interest in horror begin?
Steve Niles: When I was very young. I started with issues of Creepy and Eerie Magazine, and then when I saw Night of the Living Dead on TV for the first time, I was hooked for life.
MB: Did your family support your interest in horror?
SN: What a great question. I don’t get to give props to my mom too often, but she was insanely supportive of my love of horror. She bought me the first issue of Fangoria when it came out despite her sisters saying they would never let their kids even look at that filth. My dad bought me my first Super 8 camera even though he didn’t really like the stuff I filmed. But it was my mom really. When I was 16 she bought me my first bottle of foam latex so I could create gore effects and stain the walls with fake blood. She even helped me get my first bass. I never made decisions she was very happy with, but she always backed me up, and now today she has this shelf with all my book and news clippings she shows off to her friends.
MB: Who/what have been the biggest influences in your writing career?
SN: Hands down, Richard Matheson. He not only made me want to write but he was the first author I ever read that I enjoyed. They had a tough time getting me to read anything but comics when I was a kid, but when I was given a copy of I AM LEGEND all that changed. I’ve been a voracious reader ever since.
MB: Were comics always your passion, or did your creativity start some other way?
SN: I always loved comics, but I thought I wanted to be a filmmaker or a special effects artist when I was a kid. I idolized guys like Dick Smith, George Romero, Rick Baker, John Carpenter, and Rob Bottin. It was only after becoming frustrated with amateur filmmaking that I looked to comics.
MB: Can your fans look forward to seeing any Steve Niles cameo roles in any of the upcoming films you are connected with?
SN: If you look very carefully, you might spot me in 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, but I can’t say for sure since they are still filming.
MB: Speaking of your upcoming film projects, I am very excited about 30 Days of Night being put on the big screen!
SN: Me too! And I couldn’t be happier with David Slade at the helm. He’s an outstanding director. And with producers like Sam Raimi, Mike Richardson, and Rob Tappert involved, I feel that much more secure that we’re going to get a great horror film next year.
MB: Now 30 Days of Night has a very odd history. The comic version came about only after the story was turned down, when you originally pitched it as a film, and now it has come full circle.
SN: Yeah, it was one of a dozen or so stories I pitched to everybody who would listen in comics and film, then when I did the comic, it was like they’d never seen it before. I was so shocked at the response, but obviously really happy. That books success gave me and Templesmith our careers. I’ll always be eternally grateful.
MB: Did you ever imagine after the initial rejection that you would ever see this particular project on the big screen?
SN: Not in a million years. I had other projects like Freaks of the Heartland and the Cal McDonald books and comics I thought had a better chance. Now because of 30 Days, those stories have life and you never know, they might wind up on the screen someday.
MB: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, and most recently, Danny Huston have all been cast in major roles in the film. Are you pleased with the casting so far?
SN: Very much so. I heard a lot of criticism about Josh Hartnett, but I think he’ll make a great Eben. He has that stoic, stone-faced quality that I always pictured for the character. I recently saw Lucky Number Sleven and that sealed it for me. He was great in it. To be honest, I hadn’t seen a lot of Melissa George, but since she was cast I’ve checked out her work and she seems like she’ll make a rock solid Stella. As far as Danny Huston, I couldn’t be happier. He’s an amazing actor and comes from such an historical filmmaking family. I can’t wait to see what he does.
MB: Did you ever have anyone else pictured for any of these roles?
SN: Not really. I try not to think about those things. I like leaving it in the capable hands of the director and casting agents.
MB: Director David Slade has said "We're faced with a tremendous task, which is making a scary vampire film”. This shouldn’t be too difficult considering you have created a new breed, if you will, of vampires. Not that I am complaining AT ALL, but your vampires are vicious killing machines. What made you decide to take the all too common “romance” out of your vampires?
SN: Vampires are the most common monster and that makes them seem safe and harmless. We have everything from Count Chocula, Buffy the Vampire Slayer to action vampires in Blade and Underworld. It waters down the scares. As much as I love Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, to me there’s nothing scary about her undead. When I think of something scary, I think of the shark in Jaws. It doesn’t care one shit about you and will doing anything it can to eat your flesh. That’s what I wanted to see in vampires; ruthless, feral and do not care one bit about human life.
MB: Slade has also said "Indeed, I don't believe there's much of the genre left in what we've written, but it's very faithful both to Steve Niles' writing, and the town and the esthetic--we hope at this point, because we're not shooting until the summer--will be very close to Ben Templesmith's artwork. But we're going to maintain the level of realism.". Ok…The first part of that makes me nervous! The story is non-stop dread and blood! How can they take the “genre” out of a Steve Niles HORROR story and still stay true to the original vision?
SN: Why? David is just talking about what he wants to do. The reality of the story is that it’s about a town attacked by vampires. I think David will do it justice.
MB: Josh Hartnett was recently quoted: "It's less of a horror movie. You saw 'Alien,' right?" Hartnett asked. "It's like that. It's kind of a supernatural, but kind of a western, you know, in that genre. It's all about being on the edge. The outskirts of society. Having to create your own society with an outside element creating massive fear and panic. Most of the film you don't even know they're vampires.” Again…My Fan-girl cries when I hear stuff like this! Please tell me that 30 Days of Night isn't going to be missing the horror or more importantly the VAMPIRES?
SN: I knew this was coming. We have to remember that the mainstream mainly sees horror as women in high heels being victimized by guys with chainsaws and they want to distance themselves from that. That’s what I read into what he’s saying. People get so caught up with labels. I try not to. I know Alien is a horror movie. I know Silence of the Lambs is one as well and so is Jaws.
MB: 30 Days of Night isn't the only movie your name is attached to right now. You have joined forces with Thomas Jane and Lion’s Gate to produce five films which include The Lurkers and In the Blood.
SN: We have a production company called RAW. I’m writing The Lurkers right now, a second draft actually so the project is moving along nicely. The other title we are working on is Dark Country written by Tab Murphy. I’m excited about both movies and when I get a chance to start writing In the Blood I’ll be thrilled. I’ve always loved werewolves and that’s my chance to go nuts with that particular monster.
MB: Can you share any other titles with us?
SN: My first screen credit will be as a producer. Through RAW, Tom and I helped produce David Arquette’s directorial/writing debut on The Tripper. It’s a great little horror film with a political slant. It’s premiering at Screamfest here in LA on Friday the 13th. I’ve also just completed a draft of BIGFOOT based on the comic I wrote with Rob Zombie. Rob is also helping with the writing chores. A Cal McDonald film (Criminal Macabre) is still going to happen. I’m working closely with Mike Richardson and we’re trying to find the right place to do it.
MB: When can we expect to start seeing these films?
SN: The Tripper, Friday October 13th and 30 Days of Night is set to be released October 19th 2007. None of the other films have dates yet.
MB: Jane is set to star in The Lurkers, has anyone else been cast for the film?
SN: Not yet, but we have some ideas.
MB: You are also the executive producer of The Tripper. How did you become involved with that project?
SN: Tom is married to Patricia Arquette so he’s David’s brother-in-law. David asked us to read the script and Tom and I thought it would be fun to do. Tom also took on a role in the film and he is absolutely hilarious…in that funny/scary way Tom is so good at.
MB: Wake the Dead is one of my personal favorite retellings of the Frankenstein story. I haven’t heard anything about Dimension or the possible movie for a while. Is there anymore news on the Hollywood front pertaining to that project?
SN: Yeah, that one sort of got lost in the shuffle when the Weinstein’s made their break. I’m still trying to figure out how to get that one up and running again.
MB: You were hired by Fox Atomic Comics a short time ago to write a graphic novel called 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, which will tie the movie 28 Days Later to its upcoming sequel 28 Weeks Later. How is that project coming along?
SN: I’m really having fun with the project. It’s an 88 page graphic novel but I’m writing them as four 22 page shorts that will all interconnect and bridge the first movie to the second. I’m working with three different artists so I think it’s going to turn out to be a pretty cool book.
MB: Bigfoot and The Nail are two comics that you collaborated on with Rob Zombie. With all your recent projects your work with Rob seems to have taken a hiatus, will we be seeing anything more from Creep Entertainment International?
SN: Both of us became suddenly really busy, Rob with his films and music, me with my usual overload of writing, but we’re still doing stuff together. Right now we’re working on the screenplay for Bigfoot which we sold to Rogue last year. We’re really close to have a draft right now.
MB: Having worked with some of the most amazing talents in the comic world throughout your career, is there anyone you haven’t worked with that you would like to?
SN: Too many to name. There are so many great artists out there, it would be almost impossible to start naming them all.
MB: If you could only continue work on just ONE of your projects/characters which would it be and why?
SN: That’s easy…Cal McDonald because he’s so fun to write.
MB: And just for fun…Are there any new movies coming out that you as a horror fan are excited about?
SN: Rob’s Halloween remake. I’m anxious to see what he does.
MB: The Dread Central staff members have each compiled their top 5 Halloween movie recommendations. What would be your top 5 picks for the upcoming holiday?
SN: Nosferatu, Frankenstein, Night of the Living Dead, The Exorcist, Jaws.
MB: Well, that about wraps it up for me. Again, I can't thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with me; it has been a thrill for me!
SN: Thank you!
Big thanks to Steve for taking the time out to speak with us. Be on the lookout for more of his work to be covered here really soon!